It’s the Year 2040: What are you doing?

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This looks like an ordinary chess piece, and I would say that it is quite ordinary, except that it was made by 3D laser sintering, or a 3D copying machine.  Look closely and you will see that this rook/castle is complete with little tiny doors and a spiral staircase inside. My husband brought it home from work at Lockheed Martin and I am sure those guys/gals don’t sit around making chess pieces all day.  (Well, one day they did.) Whatever they do, it’s probably classified.  I have seen this machine and it takes up half a room.

This chess piece sits on my desk where I write and got me thinking about our future. I am working on a vague series outline of my WIP and I anticipate future books that will be written into the future.  So I decided to look up where this technology is going.

bionic-ear-300x168

Among others, I ran across this article on Strong Blogs posted by Michael Armstrong, May 24, 2013, and it really got me thinking about our future as humans, and where we will be in the next twenty-five to thirty years.  This is a brief excerpt explaining the “bionic ear”:

“Scientists at Princeton University have designed a bionic ear that can hear better than human ears. And get this: It was printed using an off-the-shelf 3D printer. ‘The result was a fully-functional organ that can hear radio frequencies a million times higher than our human ears,’ lead researcher Michael McAlpine says.”

“The way that our ear hears now is we pick up acoustic signals and then we convert those into electrical signals that go to our brain,” said McAlpine, who is an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton. “What this ear does is it has this electronic coil on it and it picks up electronic signals directly.”

Creating this bionic ear was not really intended for those who are deaf or don’t have ears, McAlpine said, but rather: “The idea of this was: can you take a normal, healthy, average human and give them superpower that they wouldn’t normally have?”

What I find so very interesting about this, is that the piece was not created on some $35,000.00 machine at some high tech prototype company. It was created on a small $1000.00 machine at a University laboratory. From what I understand in another article by Michael Armstrong, is that this technology might soon be available to the average Joe, as the laser sintering patents that keep these units unaffordable will be expiring in February 2014. Also interesting to me is the fact that the “bionic ear”  was exclusively created for the purpose of giving humans superpowers.

Back in the 80s, when I was nursing student, there was a TV show called The Six Million Dollar Man. The Six Million Dollar Man was an American television series about a former astronaut with bionic implants working for a fictional government office known as OSI. The series is based on the Martin Caidin novel Cyborg, which was the series’ proposed title during pre-production.6M$Mfront.MD Lee Majors played the part of a superhero super human in a realistic crime drama.  He had an eye that could see detail for miles, an arm with superhuman strength, and legs that made him capable of running at miraculous speeds.  If I recall correctly, his hearing was superb, also. He was a perfect crime fighter and gave the comic book hero superman an added dimension. So this is nothing new.  There are tons of other books, many written years ago, forecasting this very thing, so, not a new idea.

The new, to me, is that we are there.

When my former husband and kids watched this show, I felt it was silly and contrived, totally unrealistic. After all, I had passed five chemistry classes with flying colors, microbiology and human anatomy and physiology…anything like this would be light years down the road…wrong.  It is here.

More significantly, where are we going from here?

My 91 y o grandmother in the 80s nearly fell over the first time she saw a microwave oven thaw hamburger meat without cooking it.  A few years ago I gave my smartphone to a 100 y o woman who had lived in a Nursing Home for nearly 20 years, with Netflix playing.  I tried to explain and demonstrate what it was.  She thought it was a, “Cute toy.”  Now you can actually operate your microwave oven from miles away with your smartphone.zipel_1 Where will we be in 25-30 years?  Will we be driving electric cars with recharging stations set up in parking garages?  Will we have computer screens in our coffee tables or built into our eyeglasses?  Will our televisions truly project holographic 3-D images right into our living rooms that are capable of interacting with us? Will we be able to turn on, turn up, and turn off our senses?  Are we going to develop a whole class of wealthy bionic people? Instead of plastic surgery for vanity, we’ll get new, improved body parts.  Are we all going to be electronically “chipped” or tattooed like our pets, for safety and health, passports, credit cards purchases?article-2025102-0D65255300000578-461_468x360They already have these temporary tattoos for less invasive vital signs monitoring in hospitals. I am not speaking of science fiction that forecasts the future centuries away or millennia away. I recently ran across something that I wrote shortly after high school, and I forecast microwave ovens, smartphones, laptops, and iPads….but I had to laugh out loud at the names I had given such devices.  If you write into the future does it bother you that it might come off as rather silly to future readers?

Granted, in the year 2040 I’ll be 80 years old, but seriously what do you think?  Realistically, what are your expectations?  Also, what do you want for the future?

22 thoughts on “It’s the Year 2040: What are you doing?

      • I think the most profound impact of the technology on an individual level would be medical applications. As you mentioned, not only could doctors replace your damaged kidney for example, but they could give you a supercharged bionic one like Steve Austin. Some investment guys that I follow say that this is going to completely change the entire concept of manufacturing. At some point, instead of going to Walmart for a new toaster, you would buy the code online and then print one out at home! It makes you wonder what else you could print? Could you print food? Cuz right now I feel like I would run down to Staples and have them copy me a juicy cheeseburger!

        • LOL…a hamburger would be good. So far, it seems most of what they are doing is with plastics and metals. I don’t know where they would get the raw materials, (pun intended) for food. For example, you can easily get a key tooled at Lowe’s, but they have to have a template key. Right now, this is sort of working like a plastics extruder, but a digitally laser enhanced one. I can certainly see where the technology has medical implications. I would like new eyes with 20/20 vision, but scared to even have the laser surgery for fear they might get worse later. My husband had it done years ago and now he is just recently back into glasses, bifocals. We could pay a fortune to repeat the surgery, but he decided not to…too expensive…I fear we are not in the right class to afford new and improved body parts and I doubt the insurance would cover it, unless there were some radical problem. I like the idea of shopping without leaving the house or dealing with traffic.

          • Thanks for your thought-provoking post. I’m thinking ahead to ways they might combine nano technology with 3d printing. Nano-printers could print out custom molecules, proteins, cytoplasm, even DNA.
            This gives me an idea for a short story: 2040 and an underground group of militants is trying to “print” something truly evil…stay tuned.

    • We almost have the cute little ovens that spit out a meal in minutes, just not in pill form. Would love the cleaning robot. Flying saucers, I dunno….I think traffic problems would be worse than they already are, don’t know if I am prepared to deal with that…LOL…what about the bionic body parts though? That sort of seems a reality. Would you do it to extend your life or your senses?

  1. I told MTM after reading an article in the NY Times today about how much money we’d have to have just to cover our US health costs when we retire, that for the future, I want to live overseas.

    • I hear you. I am retired and and my husband retires in six years. We are thinking Belize, maybe. With regards to health care, we really don’t know what we are going to do. It probably won’t involve bionic body parts though.

  2. Fascinating post. I will have to give it some thought. Stories about 3-D printers are everywhere. I heard a report on NPR a week or two ago about people creating plastic guns–very scary. There’s a storyline on “Grey’s Anatomy” right now that involves a 3-D printer–one surgeon is using it for a study, while another one is trying to create heart valve (I think) for a critically ill infant.
    I, too, would like the Jetson’s technology. I looked up the intro recently for something I was working on, and I had forgotten the flying car actually folds up, and George takes it inside with him. Apparently, flying cars do exist now–though I doubt they fold up into a suitcase size. 🙂

    • My husband and I were talking about the gun replication and we can’t figure how that will be done. Plastic guns would be very dangerous to use, not that some sort of weapon could not be replicated with this technology. It might be easy enough to replicate a plastic gun, but a function one would be difficult based on how they are made. Now they are developing tech. that actually heats up and works with metals, so it is not unthinkable that guns could be replicated. It would be farther down the though. The Jetson’s was always one of my favorite cartoons. I laugh too at the old 1930s -1960s Dick Tracy cartoons. Aside from the hover crafts, we have all the other technology (have actually surpassed it) of Dick Tracy.

  3. Pingback: 2040–A Short Story part I | The Dark Chalice

  4. That chess piece looks pretty cool. I love watching Back To The Future because it shows how we think and limit new inventions by the mindsets of current inventions. Like the fax. There was a fax in every room in Back To The Future II. Faxes now are becoming quite outdated and people email each other. We have exceeded technology in that point and yet because they already had cars, they improved on that by having hover cars everywhere, which doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon.

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